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Open Source in the Military?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the you-saw-how-well-NT-on-a-carrier-went dept.

Programming 398

djmcmath asks: "Does anyone have any experience with Open Source Software and/or GPL'd software in military applications? I'm only asking because I'm involved in work on the combat systems for a new submarine, and had considered an Open Source solution. (I apologize, I must be intentionally vague for obvious reasons.) So ignore the obvious questions (Is it really suitable? Are closed-source proprietary options better? Does MS have a good solution?) and skip to the good stuff. What about the fact that my code would be classified Secret under US Code Umptifratz? I cannot distribute my code (and it's changes) without being tried for treason. What happens to the rest of the combat system code when I submit my GPL'd module?" Open Source and the Military: it's a tricky combination of keeping what can be open, open and keeping your secrets...well, secrets! However, open source in the military need not be as high profile as weapons systems. One of the only major OS projects that I'm aware of that had any form of military involvement was GRASS, the open-source GIS system. I'm sure there may be a few others out there. Does anyone know of other OS projects with military association? If there are any projects out there that interface with classified bits, how did you deal with those issues?

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first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174401)

fq

Re:first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174491)

Good job! I'm so proud of you! I bet your MOMMA is too!!!!!

Avoid Microsoft... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174411)

On a submarine, replacing a hatch with a screen door is far cheaper than Microsoft licensing, and you'll still achieve the same effect. :-)

Re:Avoid Microsoft... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174466)

Come on editors, this deserves at least a 2, funny. That is of course unless you have absolutley no sense of humor! What's a matter with you? Geeze, just cuz you have to work on a Saturday doesn't mean the rest of us should pay for you being pissed off! Get a life monkey boys!

Re:Avoid Microsoft... (1)

Juln (41313) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174605)

Um, Hi.. slashdot moderation is done by random groups of readers, not paid editors.

Re:Avoid Microsoft... (0)

nil_null (412200) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174542)

I almost took up a job with L-3 Communications who produces the "black boxes" that reside in airplanes and ocean vessels that record data to be recovered when a craft goes down. My reason for not taking the job? All their software runs under Windows! (though the embedded stuff doesn't, but everything else does) I just imagined all these ships out in the ocean running Windows and the thought really scared me.

Twin Peaks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174418)

Ok - I went through the entire 80's without seeing a single Twin Peaks episode. In complete
boredom, I rented the entire first series. The problem is, it evidently lasted more than one season.

So, who killed Laura Palmer? I have to know.

Re:Twin Peaks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174436)

Who killed Laura Palmer??
Was it: Officer Barbrady? Mr. Garrison? the 1989 Denver Bronos?

Re:Twin Peaks (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174444)

Her father.

Re:Twin Peaks (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174448)

I think that it was your MOMMA!

Re:Twin Peaks (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174477)

That'e entirely possible. She killed your daddy by over-sexing him.

Poor bugger didn't even last 5 minutes.

Re:Twin Peaks (-1)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174537)

Your mother has a penis.

Celebrity Jeopardy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174557)

Trebek: The noise a doggy makes.
Trebek: No one knows the noise a doggy makes?
Trebek: We would have accepted bow wow or rough!

Sean Connery: Ahh, rough, just how your mother likes it.

Re:Twin Peaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174576)

Your mother has a penis.

Yea. Your father's. She keeps it in her purse.

odd... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174421)

this story has been listed for a few hours on my SlashDock program, right after the "Java on Handhelds?" story... hmmm is OS X *so* good that it can retrieve stories from the future? =P

Re:odd... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174460)

hmm, check out: http://slashdot.org/slashdot.xml

it doesn't mesh with the front page... wtf??

Source Distribution (5, Informative)

aridhol (112307) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174424)

I cannot distribute my code (and it's changes) without being tried for treason

Are you distributing your executables? If you use the OSS for a specific system and only on that system, you are not required to distribute source - everyone that has the binaries (the military) will have the source.

Almost FP (0)

dark-br (473115) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174425)

U can use M$ solutions but i wonder what happens to a sub with a gpf'ing OS running it's navegational system.

Re:Almost FP (2, Funny)

JonWan (456212) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174523)

"i wonder what happens to a sub with a gpf'ing OS running it's navegational system."

That could give yet another new meaning to "The Ping of Death"

GLP and software availability (5, Funny)

Account 10 (565119) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174427)


You only need to distribute the source to the people that you distribute the binary to.

Presumably the binary is covered by the same secrecy rules as the source, so the only people entitled to the source are the miltary.

Although, if the binary is in a bomb, you may also need to distribute the source to the poor sod that you drop it on.

Re:GLP and software availability (5, Funny)

linzeal (197905) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174442)

They could just include the source in a leaflet attached to the side of the bomb with a stern finger wagging RMS on it.

Re:GLP and software availability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174467)

RMS on it.

Wouldn't that violate several international treaties

the smell alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174589)

would probably violate the chemical weapons treaties. RMS has some serious BO, if you've been lucky enough to have always been upwind of him.

Re:GLP and software availability (1)

redink1 (519766) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174462)

The bomb analogy doesn't quite work... Say somebody releases a GPL'd mass e-mailer. They'd only have to release the source to those who use the program (i.e. those who drop the bomb) not those who are e-mailed (the people who you've bombed).

Re:GLP and software availability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174484)

Not if the software is in the bomb - in a guidance system say.

Re:GLP [sic] and software availability (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174521)

The point was:

If the bomb crashes and does not explode, and some people can extract the binary out of it, then these people can ask for the source code and get it.

Re:GLP [sic] and software availability (3, Funny)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174551)

If the bomb crashes and does not explode, and some people can extract the binary out of it, then these people can ask for the source code and get it.

I don't think so. The intention of the bomb-dropper was not to provide the drop-ee with a copy of the binary included with the bomb. That would be like stating that if I broke into your office and stole a copy of the binary I could then walk in the front door and demand a copy of the source code.

what if (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174619)

you only set up somebody the bomb? would all your source belong to them?

Re:GLP and software availability (3, Informative)

ProfessorPuke (318074) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174591)

Maybe this is an intentional joke/troll, but it's completely wrong. If you distribute the binary, it must be under the terms of the GPL. Not only do the users need to be able to get the source, but the GPLed source- that means they are allowed to modify and redistribute it as they see fit.

If you use some other means (written orders from the commanding officer) to force the users not to republish the source code, then you have NOT given them a GPLed release, because you haven't given them permission to redistribute it under the same terms you acquired the software with.

(I do software contracting for the US military, and we'll include LGPL or PD code, but not GPL).

Imagine if this happened in the civilian world- CompanyX modifies GPLed GNU Emacs and puts it up for sale- but before a customer can purchase it, they have to sign a separate contract promising to never redistribute the source code. It's a blatant violation.

(Actually, that has been attempted before. A group published a modified version of the GPLed Quake game, but required users to sign away their rights to the source code before they could download the binary. The original author sent his lawyers after them, and they gave up on the scheme)

Maybe what you need to do (1)

TekReggard (552826) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174432)

Is contact companies that are open source supportive that have done a lot of work with government projects that may be similar to yours, ask those kinds of questions of people who have some serious experience with it. I know my dad could help but he's unfortunately a 6 hour drive from here at the moment, and he forgot to pay his phone bill *rolls eyes* again.

License it? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174434)

Couldn't the military, if it wanted to avoid the legalities and implications of the GPL, just license whatever code it wanted directly from the authors?

Re:License it? (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174522)

Couldn't the military, if it wanted to avoid the legalities and implications of the GPL, just license whatever code it wanted directly from the authors?

It depends on the exact code involved. Some code has so many authors that contacting each and every one would be impractical (the Linux kernel, for example), some code is written by folks who moved (or died) a while back and left no forwarding address, some programmers would say "no" on moral grounds if a military organization wished to license their code, and some programmers would say "no" to anyone who wanted to get a proprietary license to their code for any reason (like the FSF).

Re:License it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174582)

(the Linux kernel, for example)

Please do refer to it as "GNU/Linux".

Re:License it? (1)

hkhanna (559514) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174611)

Actually he was correct in saying "the Linux kernel." The kernel at the heart of the GNU/Linux system may be referred to simply as "Linux," as it has no GNU software (to my knowledge) in it.

Unless you were joking...in which case, never mind. ;)

Hargun

Re:License it? (1)

xonker (29382) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174580)

The downside to this, other than potentially having to track down every author is that you'd have to give the author a reason for wanting the license. That would probably compromise the security of the project, at least potentially. Even saying "the use will be classified" is probably too much information in some instances.

I think that the military would be within legal rights to use GPL'ed code without redistribution as long as they were using it internally only.

Unfortunately, many people don't really seem to understand the GPL or its implications. If I download the kernel and modify it, as long as I don't distribute the changes (source or binary) I don't have to tell anyone or give up my code.

Hmm... (2)

JoeLinux (20366) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174441)

I'd say as long as you didn't specify what the program was beng used for specifically, there shouldn't be a problem.

(I.E., we need .5% accuracy on this, not "The targetting for the ICBM needs to be .5% accurate", etc.)

Just my $.02.

JoeLinux

Re:Hmm... (2)

aridhol (112307) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174454)

Targetting only 0.5% accurate? Remind me to take my vacation underneath the designated target - it's the safest place in the world.

Re:Hmm... (2)

lkaos (187507) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174510)

That's why ICBMs carry such devistating payloads, if it misses the target, ah, oh well, the whole country's blown to bits anyway :)

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174564)

Joe, please would you change your name to "JoeGNU/Linux"? as it stands it is insulting to the hard work of RMS and many others.

GPL (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174443)

Don't worry about the GPL. As long as you're not distributing the product or software to anyone, you don't have to give out the source. If it stays within the military, you're fine.

If, however, these combat systems were to be _sold_ (or given away, though that's unlikely) you'd have to give the buyers the source, and you couldn't restrict what they do with it once they have it. Obviously, anyone that purchases the systems would have a vested interest in NOT revealing the source code. I really doubt this sort of thing would be a problem with military sales.

The GPL is meant to protect the users of the software, NOT the developers of the software. Too many people here interpret it far too rabidly, but if you read it carefully you'll realize that, if your combat systems are secret and classified, your source code can stay that way too. Even if you sell it to someone else, you only have to make the code available to _those_who_buy_it_. You don't have to give it to the entire public just because you sell it to one person. What they do with it after they get it is up to them, though, and they may very well choose to give it away.

Re:GPL (3, Funny)

anonymous_wombat (532191) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174546)

The only practical implication is if the defense contractor wanted to sell the weapons system to other countries, but not give them the source.
Of course, the military has a lot of firepower, and Stallman doesn't have any, so it is probably a moot point.

Re:GPL (1)

Mojo Geek (28926) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174614)

More to the point, if it's "Secret" then there is little chance RMS is aware of any OSS there.

Re:GPL (-1)

Serial Troller (556155) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174554)

WOW! A nonzealot on Slashdot! Good thing you don't have an account or one of the NAZI EDITORS would slap you for sure!

Re:GPL (3, Insightful)

yintercept (517362) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174558)

If, however, these combat systems were to be _sold_ (or given away, though that's unlikely)

Selling military equipment is a multibillion dollar business. Where do you think we get all our cheap gas? We've been trading military technology for cheap oil in the mideast for ages.

ksonar (3, Funny)

Innomi (566928) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174445)

Imagine, a whole new suite of apps for KDE, ksonar ktorpedo kcmissile ...

Treason? Very unlikely... (2, Offtopic)

empesey (207806) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174450)

It makes me doubt the veracity of your entire question. Here's what the constitution says about treason:

Article III:

Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

I fail to see how software distibution could be considered treason. Has slashdot just been duped again?

Re:Treason? Very unlikely... (4, Insightful)

aridhol (112307) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174475)

Perhaps he meant espionage - the release of state secrets to an enemy of the state.

Re:Treason? Very unlikely... (1, Insightful)

Artana Niveus Corvum (460604) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174516)

That quote is accurate, but the military can and does refine the definition for non-civilian personnel.

Re:Treason? Very unlikely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174524)

How about "giving the aid and comfort". It seems, in my limited experience, that making the source code for weapons-control systems available to anyone, including the enemy, could potentially "aid" the enemy, considering now they know everything about how your weapons-control systems work.

Re:Treason? Very unlikely... Know your facts. (2, Insightful)

jag164 (309858) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174530)


Okay, so your little research into Article III makes you an expert over the person with DOD clearence (any level) who has filled out 15-30 pages of personal facts/history, who had to read another 50-100 pages of what to do/what not to do/possible punishments, and has their personal life investigated left and right (at their choice) to benefit our country?

Until you've been there and done it and know what it takes to get a clearence and what ramifications exist if you break the agreement, keep you opinions to yourself and go back to your text book. That is real world buddy.

Re:Treason? Very unlikely... Know your facts. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174561)

Your tyrade has several flaws in it:

1) I never claimed to be an expert.
2) I have no reason to doubt my dictionary on definitions, so if the constitution defines something as treason, I'm inclined to believe it.
3) I never said it wasn't something you couldn't get punished for - I just don't believe it's treason. It's more espionage-like than treason-like.
4) You have no idea of my expertise.

Re:Treason? Very unlikely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174534)

> I fail to see how software distibution could be considered treason.

You answered your own question with the phrase "or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

Giving up the software that plays wargames and gives estimates of our & enemy responses, etc isn't treasonous?

Giving up the software that controls secure communications (so you can look for weaknesses) isn't treasonous?

Giving up the software that controls those ultrafine sonar setups on a missile sub wouldn't be treason?

Re:Treason? Very unlikely... (4, Insightful)

BoneFlower (107640) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174562)

Treason is an overstatement, but in his case, the penalties would be stiff, and could depending on the circumstances and who he distributes it to, could be considered treason. The non disclosure agreement sets penalties of 10 years and 10,000 dollars for EACH violation of the security regs. For example:

Classified fact a
classified fact b
classified fact c
classified fact d
classified fact e

If those were real classified facts, I could easily end up in jail for 50 years for this post.

It may not technically be treason, but it can be as severe and match the spirit of treason if not the letter of the definition.

Re:Treason? Very unlikely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174599)

"or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid"

Enemies can be made to be anyone the government wants, and giving then software/code would be aiding them.

hey everyone (1)

Dr Kool, PhD (173800) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174451)

My lawn is looking like a jungle, does anyone know where I can get the source code for napalm??

Re:hey everyone (1)

Account 10 (565119) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174500)

here [napalm.net] . Be careful.

Re:hey everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174507)


Yeah, here [ifrance.com] and here [ifrance.com] .

Re:hey everyone (1)

damas (469487) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174518)

That's sugar and gas. You can try it on your dad's car gas tank. Just pour a couple of cups of sugar in it.
He'll probably just buy a new one.

Red Hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174457)

I know that Red Hat is actively pursuing DoD work. They would be able to help you steer through the GPL on this one, as well as help out with some consulting. Give them a shout.

Open Source in the service of Evil (0)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174552)

Yeah, right.

Find a good use for the freely contributed code from one country: build bombs and bomb the shit out of the original authors with it.

I refused to serve my country's military in any form (even in unarmed service) and went to prison for six months for it. It will be a cold day in hell when I accept that my code is being used in warfare.

Read the FAQ (5, Informative)

gkirkend (111309) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174461)

Take a look at the GPL FAQ [gnu.org]

A quote from the FAQ which I believe applies to your situation:
"The GPL does not require you to release your modified version. You are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization. But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the users, under the GPL. Thus, the GPL gives permission to release the modified program in certain ways, and not in other ways; but the decision of whether to release it is up to you."

Greg

Another mis-understanding of the GPL (5, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174463)

It's a common misunderstanding of the GPL... using GPL software does not mean you have to distribute it.

The terms of the GPL simply state that if you sell a GPL product to a customer, you must provide the source to that customer.

Red Hat, Mandrake, and the like are being nice enough to provide iso images of their software for your download - they are not required to.

So what are the ramifications? Well, if the military sells your GPL solution to a 3rd country, they have to provide the source to that 3rd country, as well.

In other words, in this case, GPL (or no) makes no difference at all. GPL code can be "top secret" as long as the customer has full access to the code.

The idea of the GPL is that "If I bought it, I can do as I please with it - and if I sell it, so can whoever I sell it to..."

Re:Another mis-understanding of the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174506)

Here is another tragic case of someone using too many god damned paragraph markers. Note that he has also used the annoying technique of putting bold tags around portions of his sentences, indicating that he feels the reader is too stupid to pick out the important details.

Re:Another mis-understanding of the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174529)


At least he's not as bad as this pathetic loser [slashdot.org]

Re:Another mis-understanding of the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174544)

Actually, looking at a post above this that includes a snippet of the gpl faq:
if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the users

Redhat and co. must indeed provide the source code for download.

Re:Another mis-understanding of the GPL (2)

JordanH (75307) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174598)

Perhaps there are aspects to this that need to be reviewed.

With military systems, it's common to sell systems of varying degree of capability to various entities so as to maintain various strategic aims.

For example, we might keep tier 1 functionality for ourselves, offer tier 2 to the say, the Israelis, and tier 3 to other Mideast countries.

If this practice of sharing systems with various capability levels extends to software systems... Well, if you ship someone a device with binaries burned into the ROMs, don't you also have to provide the source? Could they then examine the source and add back in capabilities you've disabled? Don't you have to provide the same source to all who might have the binaries?

GPL Distribution & Security (4, Insightful)

lkaos (187507) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174474)

I actually have had to deal with this an the GPL really isn't your biggest concern, but first, let me address that.

The GPL is a set of licensing terms between the author and whomever he distributes the code to. If you are working directly with the Navy (unlikely) then writing and consuming the GPL code would pose no problem since your not distributing to anyone.

If you are working for a contractor, then it is a bit more hairy. You can still write the code GPL and distribute it to the Navy under the GPL. This of course gives the Navy whatever rights to the code so that they could redistribute it if they choose. It does not allow some guy in Florida to obtain secret info though. You would have to first give him a binary for him to have grounds to ask for the source and of course, classified source code produces classified binaries so this isn't an issue.

The real issue is QA. There are all sorts of processes (I know at least for Surface Systems) covering COTS verses in house software. Now, I spent a great deal of time working things out with QA and this is what we came up with when I first asked to use an OS library in a tactical program:

First, I had to vouch for the code. That meant I literally had to go through it line by line and make sure there were no possible backdoors in it. Also, if I modified more than a certain percentage of the library, then I was responsible for bringing that library up to in-house standards (which I'm sure you know is a real pain in the ass).

Don't worry about the licensing terms, they aren't going to be a sticking point likely. QA is what is going to kill you... (and it will only get worse if your program carries a higher classification).

OSS in military (1)

ahacop@wmuc.umd.edu (63340) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174483)

I've worked on a few defense contracts and both used all OSS throughout development and in the final products. The main reason, other than satisfying the requirments of the project, was that the developers were familiar with the OSS. Cost had nothing to do with it (I suppose it hardly does in defense contracts) As more programmers gain experience with OSS and get defense jobs I imagine you'll see more OSS used in those projects.

authority figures to the rescue (1)

KaizerWill (240074) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174486)

The whole OSS in the military question seems like a good question to pose to your superiors in the military. Once you determine the how the GPL would affect the rest of the project, if it still seems feasible, you should be able to construct a good case to present to the higher-ups about why open-source is a good option.
That said, being the skeptic that I am, i highly doubt that the military will ever embrace open-source anything, just on the principal of it all.

GPL for the sake of being GPL? (1)

hingleton (153901) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174494)

"Open Source and the Military: it's a tricky combination of keeping what can be open, open and keeping your secrets...well, secrets!"

In the nicest possible way... doesn't that just about sum it up?

Just because you could release the source code, it doesn't mean that you have to, especially when it's concerning highly "critical" systems such as those in operation on a submarine.

True, it's not as if submarines are prime targets for DDoS or remote r00t exploits, but maybe the military brass simply don't want people to know every detail of what they're using.

Good paper (1)

EricKrout.com (559698) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174501)

There's a good paper [netaction.org] entitled 'The Case for Government Promotion of Open Source Software'.

It's not so much about just the military as it is about using open-source in general for government computing needs. Perhaps after you learn about the semantics of modifying/releasing code that you develop and decide whether or not it's feasible, you could use ideas from this paper to support your actions when you try to convince your superiors why your OSS method is best.

Good luck!

m o n o l i n u x :: GNUs For Nerds. Flawless Grammar. [monolinux.com]

Depends on the definition of 'distribute' (1)

MadDog Bob-2 (139526) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174503)

First of all, the same thing comes up every time a question like this is asked, and bears repeating here. Ask an IP lawyer. Ask a lawyer familiar with how the military works and what it requires. And, having now encouraged you to trust nothing you read here, I'll offer my opinions :)

The GPL revolves around requirements put on you if you distribute your code. If you produce it directly for the military (work for hire), reasonable people could probably be convinced that use of it within the military is neither a release nor distribution.

If you're working for a contractor and selling the result to the military, that is distribution, but, IIRC, the source only needs to be made available to the same folks who get binary copies.

Either way, it doesn't look like you'd need to make anything available outside the military.

However, the military (I can probably safely assume Navy, but whatever) would presumably end up with the right to redistribute the code to other folks if it so chose. I sort of enjoy the idea of the military bidding against one of its contractors with code that contractor wrote, but I imagine the folks you work for would be less fond of it.

ask a military lawyer (3, Informative)

FredGray (305594) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174508)

I'm not sure why the author of this question thinks that he'll get good advice from Ask Slashdot. The only reasonable response is "you should find an attorney with experience in intellectual property and national security laws and an appropriate security clearance to be told the complete story."

Re:ask a military lawyer (3, Insightful)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174572)

On the one hand, I think we need something more devious than that... Put somewhere in the FAQ:

Q: blahblahblahOpen Sourceblahblahblahlegal question?
A: Get a fucking lawyer.

On the other appendage, I think Taco & Co. post these questions because of the anecdotes provided in the comments. And since the comments are the most important part of the site, what better way to add value to slashdot than to repeatedly post the variations of the question?

Personally I'm waiting for April 4, so I can be rejected for asking, "Hey, it's been a year since we talked about Game Programming w/ SDL, what's changed since then?"

Why bother? (1)

JonWan (456212) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174511)

If the programs are not released to the public can't you use GPL code and not release the source? As long as there isn't a restriction on Goverments in the GPL I don't see any problem. You will more likely get a negative reaction from from your CO just because he (she) doesn't think the program should be "Open Source". If you use existing open source code that isn't classified then I don't see any problem with that part of the code being released with your improvements as long as the improvements don't breach security.

np (0)

Psychopax (525557) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174513)

as long as you dont redistribute the software there's no need to give the source away, if i understand the GPL correctly...

Open Source in the Military? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174515)

I think that this will be just as well accepted as gays in the military.

OPEN SOURCE WILL NOT WORK IN THE MILITARY (0, Flamebait)

Dr Kool, PhD (173800) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174517)

I bet Osama Bin Laden is reading this article right now and having orgasms about the possibility of open source military software. LISTEN YOU MORONS: Giving Palistinian terrorists the source code to our missile shield is NOT A GOOD IDEA. Giving Fidel Castro the source code to our spy planes is NOT A GOOD IDEA. Giving Osama the source code to software that controls our nukes is NOT A GOOD IDEA.

Open source isn't always the way to go. And this is one clear example of that. If you disagree with me then you should move to Afghanistan where they have no food or water, no computers, no electricity, no toothbrushes, etc. and see how you like it over there.

Re:OPEN SOURCE WILL NOT WORK IN THE MILITARY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174526)

Afghanistan where they have ... no computers, no electricity,

So what's Osama going to do with the source? Wipe his arse with it?

Re:OPEN SOURCE WILL NOT WORK IN THE MILITARY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174536)

You know what? You are really really smart. I'm glad this country is full of really smart people like you. First of all, it's clear you have absolutley no clue in regard to OSS. Secondly, why does every idiot inflamed with rage after 911 insist that everyone who doesn't agree with them should move to another country? Get a hold of yourself...

somebody, please mod this down! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174548)

This person is clearly a crack addict.

Re:Osama bin Laden (0, Flamebait)

SystemAddict (552141) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174573)

Since your superintelligent president decided to bomb the Taleban to buggery and may or may not have blown O-b-L to bits, you'll never know, will you?

Doesn't anyone read the GPL before they ask /.? (1)

ghillie (219567) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174519)

If the guy asking the question read the GPL, he would know the answers to his questions about the GPL. Then again, if he read the answers to the last post where some moron asked slashdot about the GPL, he would have already had the answers to his questions as well. This topic is not news for nerds. It is not new. It is not for nerds. The nerds are smart enough to have read the GPL and wouldn't ask such assinine questions. Come on people, learn to think for yourselves!

License Change? (1)

Electrawn (321224) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174520)

I think one of the things most users forget regarding GPL issues is the ability to contact the author(s) and try and negotiate a new license (such as BSD style or commercial), possibly for a fee. It doesn't ruin the spirit of the GPL for other users and allows you to keep military secrets secret.

Virginia Class (2)

lkaos (187507) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174532)

I wonder if this is for the Virginia Class [naval-technology.com] of mini-subs. These things are just so freaking cool. I'd give my right leg to have one of these things to ride around the Jersey shore in :)

Re:Virginia Class (3, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174621)

give my right leg to have one of these things to ride around the Jersey shore in :)

You don't haveto - just enlist.

Hmm.. interestting (5, Informative)

BoneFlower (107640) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174545)

IANAL, however I did work in military intelligence and information security.

From what I understand, in this case, the government agency responsible for the code changes would be required to distribute those changes to any agency they distribute the binaries too... This should not, as I understand it, mean the individual users of the software.

For example, lets say the Navy sends copies of the binaries to Electric Boat(a sub manufacturer). They would be required to send the source to Electric boat as well.

However, in this case, it is Electric Boats IT department that is the receiver of the binary, NOT the electric boat employee who uses the software. Therefore, the source can legally be kept inside a safe at the CMCC(classified material control center), shown only to the IT department and others with an established need to know.

However, in any case, regardless of license, if the source changes reveal classified information it would be illegal to release them to the general public. I'd wager that even if that turned out to be a direct violation of the GPL, the classification side of the case would win in court.

With all that said, I would recommend you push for release of all source changes that do not reveal classified information. I realize that might not be much, but what you can, go for it.

This just might align with your politics. (1, Flamebait)

burtonator (70115) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174560)

OK... this is not a troll... I am being serious here.

If you can't release your source code, don't use the GPL.

Why? Because a lot of us GPL fans are Buddhist, Pacifist, Hippie types! :)

Seriously... I don't want you using my software to help kill people.

I spend my free time writing software to help people. Right now I can barely afford to eat but I am happy because I feel that the software I write is going to do some good in the world.

Killing people and creating even more bad karma doesn't fit in with my world view :)

I have also talked to Stallman about putting a clause in the GPL about not using the GPL in military systems because of these concerns. I don't know if it is possible. What about the Coast Guard? What UN peace keeping troops?

So yes... you can't use GPL code.

... and stop killing people! :)

Peace!

Kevin

It's not the GPL that's going to get you arrested, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174563)

What about the fact that my code would be classified Secret under US Code Umptifratz? I cannot distribute my code (and it's changes) without being tried for treason.

But running around telling half the world that you are working on secret code is likely to get your security clearance revoked. I guess you weren't listening when they told you to be discrete about the stuff your working on ;-)

Support? (5, Funny)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174566)

Open software is typically accompanied by open support. If the usage of your software is as secret as you make it sound, it might be really difficult to get technical support from the community in the same way civillian users might.
I finally got Linux 2.4.CLASSIFIED to work on my CLASSIFIED system, which required me to work around the CLASSIFIED component attached to the CLASSIFIED-CLASSIFIED. However, I'm still having some stability problems. Anybody see anything blatently wrong with this patch? :

--- /usr/local/src/linux/fs/devices.c Sat Sep 22 21:35:43 2001
+++ CLASSIFIED.c Sat Mar 16 14:32:35 2002
@@ -32,7 +32,7 @@

struct CLASSIFIED_struct {
const char * name;
- struct file_operations * fops;
+ struct string_operations * CLASSIFIED;
};

static CLASSIFIED_t CLASSIFIED_lock = RW_LOCK_UNLOCKED;
@@ -62,9 +62,9 @@
Load the CLASSIFIED if needed.
Increment the CLASSIFIED count of module in question.
*/
-static struct CLASSIFIED_operations * get_chrfops(unsigned int CLASSIFIED, unsigned int CLASSIFIED)
+static struct string_operations * get_chrfops(unsigned int CLASSIFIED, unsigned int CLASSIFIED)
{
- struct CLASSIFIED_operations *ret = NULL;
+ struct CLASSIFIED_operations *ret = NULL;

if (!CLASSIFIED || CLASSIFIED >= MAX_CHRDEV)
return NULL;
@@ -95,7 +95,7 @@
return ret;
}

Military involvement (5, Insightful)

Ektanoor (9949) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174567)

Just a note on how military are involved on spreading the evil "specter" all over the world. Just one name that means all:

"TCP/IP"

It's open, clear and crystal like water. The whole world uses it. 90% of open/closed source network systems depend on it. It's open, it's readable. And it's ARPA...

What else is needed to talk about the military involvement? From start to end, many things done on computers are orginally military by their nature... First computers were created for military needs, let's not forget this. And today nearly everyone uses them. From Taco to Ben Laden...

classifying software (1)

Kusanagi (108244) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174568)

One thing I've noticed with using computers with "Secret" stickers slapped all over it is that the software itself can be unclassified, but the computer becomes Secret when it starts processing data. I work with some systems in the USAF that are like that - the OS (solaris or windows for example) is unclas, the software installer (on a dat tape) is unclas -- but when you install everything and configure it, the system becomes secret.

Also, if you know anything about COMSEC, you might notice how a crypto device that is zeroized can be stored in plain old room (locked only to prevent theft) and you can even find schematics of some of this equipment on the net.

Treason? (2)

rossz (67331) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174569)

I cannot distribute my code (and it's changes) without being tried for treason.
I don't think treason would apply here. Look at Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.
On the other hand, you might be charged with espionage.

You give the military the cource anyhow. (1)

gte910h (239582) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174574)

I work for a military contractor. Every project that we've worked on, we've ALWAYS given the military the source we use. What is th econflict with OSS?

not likely (1)

e aubin (121373) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174575)

I work for a large defense contractor. We're forbidden to use most open source programs. MySQL, Jacorb, Postgresql, Log4J, and even perl (!) have been avoided because of liability issues... Its also difficult to convince our laywers open source can be used w/o (potentially) violating copyright of many developers...

Would be nice to see, but its not common (or likely) in my experience.

Ever hear of the Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174583)

The TCP/IP protocol which made the Internet
possible, as well as Iraqi communication centers,
was popularized by 4.2BSD, which was sponsored
by DARPA for use on the ARPANET, the predecessor
to the Internet. Today, the BSD networking stack
lives on in all versions derived from real Unix(tm), but not versions derived from MINIX,
and also lives on in Windows. BSD is free software which runs on your pc and is used by
many government agencies. Check out FreeBSD
if you ever want to run a high-quality OS w/o
VM or networking bugs.

Classified software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3174585)

One thing I noticed while doing government contracting (some of it on classified projects) is that often the tools themselves are non-classified, and the data the tools operate on is subject to security classifications. That is probably the situation with the GRASS project mentioned in the submission.

That may or may not have ramifications for the submarine project you are working on, but if you are looking at _releasing_ some parts of the software in open source that would probably be the dividing line delinitating code that can be released under an Open Source license.

OSS in the USAF (4, Interesting)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174590)

I am a programmer in the USAF, and my squadron (for security reasons I cannot say what my unit does) uses OSS.

We use Samba for sharing printers between Windows NT and Solaris. We don't change the source code, but we do use OSS. I believe that we also use GCC for some things, because (and I am not 100% sure on this since I am not a sysadmin) I don't think Solaris comes with a C compiler. We also use DivX for... I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you ;-)

I've thought about this before because of our software licensing. Let's say Microsoft thinks they need a license audit. What's more important: maintaining our security by not allowing Microsoft access to sensitive computer systems, or complying with their "copyright" policies? If a computer is located in a secure area protected by federal classification law, who will know?

It goes both ways. The government could potentially abuse the GPL, but they could do the same to the draconian licensing terms in commercial software. It is my experience that the people in charge of acquiring systems will make sure their subordinates comply with the law. The higher-ups at my squadron stress that we must obey licensing laws because it's The Right Thing To Do.

I like open source software. I think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. But for some applications, such as classified computer systems, it may be best to stick to closed source if you need to change the open source software.

More projects (2)

G-Man (79561) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174592)

My company lists their open source projects here [mitre.org] . No missile guidance systems, just stuff like virtual workspaces, and I haven't worked on any of these projects so I can't vouch for their quality/usefulness. But hey, if you're a US taxpayer you paid for them, so have at it.

One Approach - Loose Integration (5, Interesting)

guygee (453727) | more than 12 years ago | (#3174604)



I worked on a terrain database analysis tool, called ZCAP [ucf.edu] ,
that was funded a few years back by U.S. Army STRICOM [army.mil]
and the Defense Modeling and Simulation Office [dmso.mil]
We distributed the application (and still do) in a complete package
that included a number of supporting free source applications, such as gnuplot
and tcl/tk. We handled the combination of free source, (no longer)export-restricted
software, and proprietarty libraries by loosely integrating
using system calls under a tk-based gui. Not very clean, but there
is a lot of good code in there, and I'm planning to gpl it in the near future.

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